With MLB active rosters expanding from 26 to 28 players through May 1st this season, two additional Seattle Mariners players will have the opportunity to make the team’s Opening Day roster. On Tuesday, outfielder Taylor Trammell was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma, so Billy Hamilton, Steven Souza Jr., and Julio Rodriguez remain as fourth outfielder options heading into the season.
A seven-year MLB veteran, Steven Souza Jr. signed a minor-league contract with the Mariners this offseason, returning to his native region of Northwest Washington. Souza is primarily known for his glove (something the Mariners desperately need help with in the outfield), but he’s shown a decent amount of slugging ability to counteract his underwhelming career offensive numbers.
Steven Souza’s best season came in 2017 with the Tampa Bay Rays, when he posted 30 home runs, 78 RBIs, and a .810 OPS, along with five Defensive Runs Saved (according to Fangraphs). That type of production isn’t what the Mariners are needing from their fourth outfielder this season; rather, a player that can provide pop at the end of the lineup, pinch-hit against late-inning left-handed relievers, and start once or twice a week against lefties is more likely what the M’s are looking for.
Of course, if Seattle is willing to overlook the service time disadvantages of calling up star prospect Julio Rodriguez to begin the season, then there’s no chance Souza makes the initial roster. That would solidify the Mariners’ outfield crew as Jesse Winker, Jarred Kelenic, Mitch Haniger, Rodriguez, and (partially) Dylan Moore, so there simply wouldn’t be enough space for Souza.
However, I’m not one to put service time manipulation past any Major League General Manager or President of Baseball Operations, so as long as it’s allowed under the Collective Bargaining Agreement (which it still is), I personally predict Rodriguez will start the year in Tacoma. Hopefully I’m wrong, but if not, then the battle will come down to Souza and speedster Billy Hamilton.
Let the veteran battle for the fourth outfield spot commence.